New ways to return online purchases that just aren’t right

As online shopping surges, so do the returns — and the hassles for shoppers trying to get rid of items that aren’t right. A few startups dedicated to online returns as well as changes at some big stores may make it easier.

With the contest for shoppers’ loyalty intense, retailers need to keep them happy — and returns can be a key part of that. Online purchases get returned at about twice the rate of in-person selections, says internet consultant Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali. And fewer than half sell again for full price, according to research company Gartner Inc.

Some stores have long allowed people to return to a store merchandise they bought online. Flash site Gilt Group lets shoppers take returns to Saks Off Fifth stores, since they have the same owner. The new options allow shoppers to drop their items off at dedicated mall kiosks, or even have things picked up at their doorstep.

“Retailers have to be competitive, whether it’s free shipping or free returns,” said Tobin Moore, CEO of Optoro, which helps retailers find the best re-sale price when a product is returned.

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